Friday, 21 May 2021

Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) as an Alternative to Fiber Deployments

Project Taara, a part of Alphabet's X moonshot factory, has been working on a wireless optical technology that could deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity to remote areas using a network of light emitters and receivers.

The Taara team has piloted their technology in India and Africa. Taara links offer a cost-effective and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed connectivity to remote areas. Taara links help plug critical gaps to major access points, like cell towers and WiFi hotspots, and have the potential to help thousands of people access the educational, business, and communication benefits of the web.

A potential solution to this problem arose during work on Project Loon. The Loon team needed to figure out a way to create a data link between balloons that were flying over 100 km apart. The team investigated the use of wireless optical communication technology to establish high-throughput links between balloons. Like fiber, but without the cables, wireless optical communication uses light to transmit high-speed data between two points.


Free Space Optical Communications, aka FSOC links use beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances — just like fiber optic cable, but without the cable. And because there’s no cable, this means there’s none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles. FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometers apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to easily traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways.

The advantage of these High-throughput links are:

  • Flexible Technology: With a clear line of sight, wireless optical communication technology can transmit data at high speeds of up to 20 Gbps. A single link can cover distances up to 20 km and be used to extend fiber networks.
  • Long-Range: Long range line-of-sight data transmissions at 20+ km.
  • High-Speed: High-throughput supports 10-100s Gbps data rates.
  • Connectivity Across Terrains: The system is effective in areas that are difficult to connect using fiber cables. These include sites located around forests, water bodies, railway tracks, or land with high real estate costs.
  • Easy To Integrate: Based on open standards to work seamlessly with existing infrastructure and environments.

Looking forward to hearing more about how it's helping connect the unconnected.

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